Monthly Archives: September 2011
I find it very powerful to have just a single sentence on a page for reflection. Not all are great, but it’s an interesting exercise to simply read the statements without commentary.. I found it very helpful to read leadership concepts from a wide variety of authors and personality types from several different millennia.
Not for everyone. Probably wouldn’t purchase but checked out a digital copy from the library.
Hal Lindsey wants you to be concerned about “…a mad scramble to convince the Palestinians to drop their request [for recognition as a State] and avert an international crisis.” He goes on to say this is “supernatural” and in fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Then he says he’s going to study the legal history of statehood to expose the lies behind this plan. Mixed message? Yes. This can’t happen, it’s the worst thing ever. This is fulfillment of prophecy ushering in Christ’s return. Isn’t it one or the other?
I want to throw some biblical light on the current events in the middle-east. Matthew 24:14 tells us everything we need to know about the return of Christ.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-8, 14 NIV)
Jesus made it very clear. So why all the Christian TV hysteria? God the Father will choose the appointed time based on His agenda to reach as many people as possible with the Good News. Political events will not force God’s hand. Even if these things were the key, if God wills them, why try to prevent them or be so anxious? The kingdom of God is not politics. It is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.
Agreed, times of tribulation are predicted for Christ-followers. But many of Jesus’ words on this were directed at an event which already occured 2000 years ago. Jesus said that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem would be the sign of his vindication as the Son of Man/Messiah/Son of God. It should be proof to all of who he was and the downpayment that he would return to judge the whole world.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be…. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:15-21, 34, 35 ESV)
If we don’t try to overlay a whole preconceived system of thought developed in the last 150 years and just let Jesus’ words guide us it’s not so complicated. Now trying to figure out where the rapture fits? Complicated. Trying to figure out how current events hem these words in and define their meaning? Impossible, because they don’t. These words of Jesus clearly prophesy the Roman leveling of the Temple. Some who heard Jesus were still living, though elderly. A whole way of life came to an end. No stone left unturned. Just as he said. Boom. Vindication he was Messiah and that God is displeased with the compromised ruling class who controlled the Temple with Roman power. The tables turned. Prophecies fulfilled. The Book of Hebrews suddenly became incredibly relevant. Jesus as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin now standing in stark relief as the dust settled on fallen stones. Jews become a people of the Book instead of the Temple.
The End Times clock started ticking then! Christ could pretty much return at any time once the Gospel would be preached to the whole world. That’s the determining factor. Jesus said it straight out.
So back to the made-for-tv Christian hysteria. Honestly it’s something I’ve never understood. My common sense tells me these people may have motives more complicated than simple truth-telling. Sure is good for TBN ratings. In fact Lindsey tells us if we have friends influenced by “the world media” to “encourage them to tune in this week”. If it gets people to think about the Bible and judgment day, that’s probably good. But the tone often contradicts the plain meaning of the Scriptures.
Whether or not the tribulation experiences will be repeated just before Christ’s 2nd Coming is a matter of great debate. First, there’s simply no promise that Christians will avoid suffering. (I’ll have more to say about escapist thinking/teaching in another post.) As an interpreter of Scripture and student of history I think somewhat similar (although not the same) events have happened many times in history and will again, should Christ tarry. But they certainly happened in AD 70, exactly as Jesus predicted. The early church took it as the proof to all of who Jesus was and is now. I think that’s the main point.
So never assume you’ve got more time. For you, the end could come in the next few minutes. Live every day with eternity in view. Don’t cozy up to the world, then freak out when something looks like war over there. Live sober lives. Confess your sins if you’re out of relationship with God. Commit to following Jesus. Enjoy the wholesome gifts of life. Love God. Love your neighbor. Join in God’s mission to share Good News with all. And by all means look forward to His return! What’s next will be much better if we’re ready when our end comes. It will happen. But God chooses the moment based on maximum redemption. Not fear or politics or war. Don’t get distracted from the coming judgment by preoccupation with worldly matters. But neither be unduly focused in an obsessive way with current politics as the key to Bible interpretation. When he comes you won’t miss it! Get ready! Ready or not the end is near. It has been for 2,000 years!
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other… “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:30, 31, 36-39 ESV)
I’ll have more to say on other relevant Scriptures, especially ones associated with judgment and the so-called rapture, in a forthcoming post.
I got a very personal email from Reed Hastings (of Netflix fame) tonight. He seems really sorry for how he hurt my feelings and all. I really appreci…what? You got it, too? Oh, I hate it when my bubble bursts like that!
Well, it brings up a point about change. The world changed so fast twice recently. Analog to digital. Then prosperous to lean times. Bam-bam! It’s enough to make an entrepreneur jumpy! Or a church consultant paranoid. Many have thought that we just need to stay ahead of the curve. Change now BEFORE we need to. Change the church culture every 18 months. Make it seem fresh. That’s one way. But a certain number of people (more so in church than other places) fall into a pattern and like the rhythm. So they don’t like change for change’s sake. It creates problems. On the other hand some of these same folks could decide that the same has become stale and they don’t like it anymore. So you can’t just stay the same, either.
But pleasing people isn’t the way to please people in the long run. In the church we have an unchanging mission. Our methods need to be flexible but solid. Not surprisingly I turn to Apple as an example here. Over 20 of the last 30 years they’ve given people the very best products they didn’t know they needed yet. They’ve managed to be out in front of the culture, exploring what’s possible with current technology without compromising their mission. They’ve found the solid ground and started building on it so they were ready when the culture caught up. They’ve managed to hold onto what’s best about tradition while keeping the experience fresh. It never seems like change for change’s sake. In the worst economy they are just about the only profitable company. More cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury. And the mission is safe.
So is there a lesson in the Netflix-Apple soup? I don’t think Reed came clean. They just sold the streaming way too cheap by originally convincing the studios it was an experiment. When it took off the deal was DOA. Now we have Qwikster! Seriously? 2 websites? Ugh! Maybe change just to shake things up is a little reckless. And maybe sometimes in the church we need to offer people something they don’t understand they need yet. But part of our calling is to help them see it. So what are some of the ways we can get out in front of culture? What is now possible that seemed impossible a few years ago? What element of our mission can be enhanced by possible changes? Then what are the solid methods and tools we can build for people to help them go to the next level of missional living? What’s the iPad of the Christian experience? It’s gonna look different in almost every local church. It’s whatever takes people from wherever they are to more closely in step with Jesus. Last time I checked, it can’t come too soon for many of our churches. I think we’ve done the iChurch, MYchurch thing to death. But a church that truly exists for its non-members? A church that’s about sacrificing all to glorify God and serve the world? If we have a solid enough foundation. If we make it clear. If we’re fiercely committed to the mission. That’s a church just about anyone would like to serve in. Some of them just don’t know it yet… How can we help them see?
The interesting thing about the Bible is that it took a long time to produce. About one thousand years. It has stayed in print for 2 millenia. Sometimes I hear complaints the first time people try to read it. It’s not easy to understand in places. Names hard to pronounce. A lot of history. Deep ideas. Wild stories. You name it. I’ve heard it. But should we really be surprised that something that took so long to produce in its final form would be a challenge?
The wisdom and inspiration of Scripture rose to the top like cream. It took a while. More than one read for most folks. But many kept coming back again and again. And for some, it connected deeply pretty early on. Others found that the effort required to read it was changing them. Their minds still didn’t understand everything, but their character was changing and their hearts were strangely warmed by the process. They considered that proof of inspiration.
I took a lot of Bible courses over the years. I even got the high score on the Old Testament Comprehensive Exam in College. (Almost as cool as that time I got the high score on PacMan in High School!) But I really didn’t start to deeply connect all the dots of the Old Testament until I’d lived with it year after year while trying, failing, succeeding, and growing in the midst of real life. And teaching and co-learning with others along the way.
We’re starting a journey next week called Engage the Word. If you do it (find links here) you will learn a lot. In 40 Days you’ll hit some of the key highlights of God’s story worked out in creation. You’ll still have questions. But that’s great! That’s what gets you to the next level. But what will bump you up a few notches is inviting someone to engage with you around the Word. A church friend? Great. Better? Someone who’s never read it before. Get together once a week with them to talk about the experience. You’ll be amazed at what you’re remembering, sharing, and learning. I promise. Combine this with serving someone else’s needs? Get ready to be rocked! It might just blow the lid off your life. (In a good-finally got the pickle jar open-way, not like the trash can lid blowing down the street way…)
It takes a while. But if there’s any fast-track it’s found in sharing and serving. Let’s get started. Together!
The world has changed. Something has ended. But in our culture whatever is next is still waiting to happen. We look around to see everyone is waiting. Businesses aren’t hiring. Leaders aren’t quite leading. Everyone is sure what doesn’t work, but there’s little agreement on what does.
Surely for churches this is our moment. We’re on a mission that essentially doesn’t change. We can offer meaning and hope and vision and mission. Since everything else is on pause, we can make a difference.
If we stay on-mission. If we’re afraid we pause too. But why? If the good news has ever been good, it is now. Forgiveness. Love. Community. Mission. It fills this in-between time quite nicely if we’ll let it.
This Fall we’re looking to Engage the Word. But not just in private. We’re looking for ways to go public with this whole Jesus thing. Like we really believe it. Like those around us really need it. Like our calling is to serve.
As we dive back into the Scriptures, please let’s not be searching for more information. Let’s be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But let’s love God and neighbor as ourselves. With our hands and feet. Plural. Together. As one.
Let’s surprise ourselves at how well we can take God at his Word. For God so loved…through us.
Question 1: Can we decide to build our lives around the mission?
Question 2: How can the small groups we’re part of now become missional communities?
Question 3: Is God asking me to be a leader or catalyst for a new missional community in our church?
God has called. Our mission of living out discipleship as we draw others into Kingdom life is summed up in this:
To be and To Make Disciples. May our common life fulfill this mission like never before. Opportunity Knocks. Maybe life will never be the same…